Analysis of Census Data

Since 1920 for Southern Illinois

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Summary

The number of senior adults living in the southernmost thirteen counties of Illinois has declined since 1980. This is important because the decline in the senior population in southern Illinois has had a negative effect the amount of funding for programs that help senior adults, since many grant programs allocate funding to counties and regions based on population. As the senior population declined in southern Illinois, so did the funding for aging related programs.

On a national level, the number of senior adults has increased from 35.6 million in the 1980 Census to 45.8 million in the 2000 Census, an increase of 28.5%. The number of senior adults in Illinois has increased from 1.77 million in the 1980 Census to 1.96 million in the 2000 Census, an increase of 10.8%. The number of senior adults in Southern Illinois has declined from 61,254 in the 1980 Census to 59,199 in the 2000 Census, a decrease of 3.4%.

The reason for this phenomenon of a declining older population in southern Illinois is elusive and baffling. To try and explain it, the Egyptian Area Agency on Aging decided to document the U.S. Census counts for the southernmost thirteen counties for the 20th century to see if there is a simple answer for this phenomenon.

The Census population for southern Illinois was broken down into ten-year age groups. These ten-year age groups were used to compare the number of people in each age group in subsequent Census counts. I other words, the youngsters in the 0-9 age group in the 1920 U.S. Census count were compared to the adolescents aged 10-19 in the 1930 Census count. The idea was to track each of these ten-year age groups across Census counts to see if there were any trends that would account for the decline in the older population in the latter part of the last century, such as a dramatic decline in births, etc.

The 1920 U.S. Census count was used as a starting point for this study since it was the earliest data found that broke down the Census by age and counties that was needed for this study. What was striking about the Census data, when it was broken down into ten-year age groups and compared across Census counts, was the large decline in the number of young people from age 20 to age 40 in the early part of the last century.

The number of young, working-age people declined dramatically from 1930 to about 1970. For example, there were 78,066 individuals in the 0-9 age group in southern Illinois in the 1920 Census count. Twenty years later in 1940 these individuals were included in the 20-29 age group. The 1940 Census indicated a decline in their numbers to only 51,440. In 1950 their numbers dropped again to 38,946 (in the 30-39 age group). In 1960 their numbers dropped to 32,593 (the 40-49 age group). Their numbers stabilized somewhat thereafter in the next two Census counts.

This same trend of a considerable decline in young, working-age people in southern Illinois continued with each successive ten-year age group until about 1970. Several demographers and researchers at SIUC suggested an explanation for this decline in young, working-age people in the early part of the last century, suggesting that they left southern Illinois to go to other areas in order to find jobs. It was suggested that there were great job losses in southern Illinois in the early part of the last century caused by a farming depression in the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is well documented that the coal industry employed thousands of people in the early part of the last century, but employs only a handful today due to a decline in the demand for coal from this region. This decline in coal mining jobs and the early economic depressions may have been the primary reason so many young, working age people left southern Illinois in order to go to cities and other places where jobs may have been more plentiful.

The Census data also seems to support this theory of young people leaving, or an out- migration of young, working-age people in the early part of the last century, which may also be the reason why there was a subsequent decline in the senior population in the latter part of the 20th Century. In other words, since young, working-age people left southern Illinois in the early part of the last century, there were fewer adults remaining who eventually matured into their senior adult years.

Fortunately, the Census data shows that this trend of an out-migration of young, working-age people has slowed greatly in the last 35 years, although it does continue to happen on a smaller scale as shown in the 2000 Census. Since this out-migration of young people from southern Illinois seems to be much smaller and less dramatic now than it was in the early part of the last century, southern Illinois will eventually show an increase in its senior population. However, it probably wont happen until the U.S. Census count conducted in 2020.

In the mean time, southern Illinois must find alternative funding sources to support its senior adult programs since grant funding is often closely tied to the number of senior adults in each county, numbers that will continue to decline for southern Illinois in the next Census count.

Purpose of the Study

Funding under the Older Americans Act is distributed to and within states by using the U.S. Census data. The number of "senior adults" aged 60 and older, including their demographics, is used in formulas to determine each regions share of the funding for use in providing home and community-based senior services.

The number of senior adults in the U.S. has increased from 35.6 million in the 1980 Census to 45.8 million in the 2000 Census, an increase of 28.5%. The number of senior adults in Illinois has increased from 1.77 million in the 1980 Census to 1.96 million in the 2000 Census, an increase of 10.8%. The number of senior adults in Southern Illinois has decreased from 61,254 in the 1980 Census to 59,199 in the 2000 Census, a decrease of 3.4%.

Since there has been a decrease in the number of senior adults living in the southernmost thirteen counties in Illinois since 1980, there has been a decrease in the share of funding this region receives for senior services. The purpose of this study is to determine why the number of senior adults in Southern Illinois has decreased since 1980.

Theories for the Decline

After talking with several demographers and university researchers, it was decided to test several theories. The first theory suggested that there were fewer births in the 1920s and 1930s to account for the decrease in the senior adult population as indicated in the 1990 and 2000 Census data. However, this theory was quickly dismissed since there were more individuals in Southern Illinois in the age group 0-9 in the Census counts for 1920, 1930, and 1940 than since that time.

The second theory developed for this project suggested that an out-migration of young adults contributed to the eventual decrease in senior adults left living in the region. That is, young adults moved out of the region, perhaps to find jobs, thus decreasing the number of young adults left in the region who matured into senior adults decades later. Several demographers and researchers interviewed for this study suggested that there were great job losses in Southern Illinois caused by a farming depression in the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. These economic depressions may have been the primary cause for the out-migration of young adults to other regions where jobs may have been more plentiful. The Census data seems to support the theory of out-migration of young adults as a reason why fewer senior adults remained in this region in later Census counts.

A third reason for the decrease in the number of senior adults could be contributed to an unusual number of deaths of people under the of age 60 in this region or that senior adults lived longer lives in other regions of the country. However, there is no evidence of either of these happening in any greater or lesser numbers in Southern Illinois than anywhere else in the country and, therefore, are not addressed by this study.

Summary of Conclusions

This study of the Census data suggests that out-migration of young adults since 1930 may be the primary, and perhaps even sole reason that Southern Illinois senior adult population has declined since 1980.

A Census data for the thirteen southernmost Illinois counties was developed to show the number of individuals in each ten-year age group. By looking diagonally down the chart, from top left to bottom right, the Census chart shows how the number of individuals born in Southern Illinois changed with each Census count. The individuals born in the 1910s would be in the 0-9 age group in the 1920 Census count, 10-19 age group in the 1930 Census count, and 20-29 age group in the 1940 Census count, etc.

Starting with the 1920 Census count for individuals in the 0-9 age group and moving diagonally down one step and to the right, each subsequent Census count indicates that number of young adults declined significantly with each count. For example, there were 78,066 individuals in the 0-9 age group in Southern Illinois in the 1920 Census count. Ten years later in 1930 these individuals would be in the 10-19 age group the 1930 Census indicated a decrease in this age group to only 67,536. In 1940 these individuals would be in the 20-29 age group the 1940 Census indicated another decrease to only 51,440. In 1950 their numbers dropped to 38,946 (in the 30-39 age group). In 1960 their numbers dropped to 32,593 (the 40-49 age group) and then stabilized somewhat thereafter in the next two Census counts.

This same pattern of a decrease in the numbers for each successive ten-year "generation" occurs largely between ages 10 and 39 years. This data clearly suggests that since 1920 there has been an out-migration of young adults from Southern Illinois at the same time when there also was a loss of good paying jobs in coal mining, farming, and light industry. Conversely, there is no pattern in the Census of in-migration of other age groups to compensate for this tremendous loss of young adults from our region.

As each ten-year "generation" in Southern Illinois matured into their senior adult years, there were considerably fewer than were in the 0-9 age group sixty years earlier. In 1920, there were 78,066 individuals in the 0-9 age group, but only 30,735 in the 60-69 age group sixty years later. Of the 64,714 people in the 0-9 age group in 1930, only 26,952 were left in Southern Illinois in the 60-69 age group in 1990. Of the 54,401 individuals in the 0-9 age group in 1940, only 24,398 matured into the 60-69 age group in the 2000 Census. This loss in numbers for each ten-year "generation" as they achieved their senior adult years is accounted for mostly likely through a high number of young adults leaving the region years earlier.

A Slowing of the Out-Migration

A recent change to this pattern of out-migration of young adults began occurring during the Census counts of 1970 and 1980. There was an increase in the number of young adults between the ages of 10 and 29 in 1970 compared to these age groups in 1960. This phenomenon occurs almost entirely in and around Jackson County and is probably due to the increase in the student population at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) increased its enrollment from about 4,000 students to over 20,000 students, thus most likely accounting for all of this sudden growth in young adults in the region when the Census counts were taken in 1970 and 1980. Additionally, the growth in the student population since the 1960s appears to be slowing the general out-migration of young adults from Southern Illinois since then.

The population of individuals in Southern Illinois in the 0-9 age group in the 1960 Census was 43,655. That number grew to 47,627 in the 10-19 age group in 1970, topped out at 53,279 in the 20-29 age group in 1980, and settled back to 41,021 in the 30-39 age group in 1990, before falling off to 39,153 in the 40-49 age group in 2000 Census count. This is a total decrease of only 4,202 individuals from number in the 0-9 age group in 1960 to the number in the 40-49 age group in 2000.

This decrease in the number of individuals in the 0-9 age group in 1960 to the 40-49 age group in 2000 is much smaller than the previous ten-year "generations." The decrease in the numbers of individuals in the 0-9 age group in 1920 to the number in the 40-49 age group in 1960 was 45,473. The decrease in the 0-9 age group in 1930 to the number in the 40-49 age group in 1970 was 36,622. The decrease in the 0-9 age group in 1940 to the number in the 40-49 age group in 1980 was 27,785. The decrease in the number of individuals in the 0-9 age group in 1950 to the number in the 40-49 age group in 1990 was 19,763. Thus, the out-migration of young adults slowed as the century advanced.

If we can assume that young adults left the region in the first part of the 20th Century to find jobs elsewhere, then the slowing of the out-migration of young adults from 1920 to 1950 suggests a gradual improvement in the economy of the region during that time frame. More importantly, the dramatic slowing of the out-migration of young adults in Southern Illinois from 1960 to 2000 suggests the positive influence that the growth in the student population at SIUC has had on the growth and economy of this region, particularly for individuals in their prime job seeking and child-bearing years. As a result of the growing student population at SIUC and a change in the regions job-base from farming and coal mining to a more diverse economy, more and better jobs have become available to accommodate young adults seeking good jobs in the region. It is likely that more young people are staying and raising their families here. In addition, it is possible that a sizable number of students who came to SIUC from other parts of the state or nation continued to live in Southern Illinois upon completion of their education.

It will be interesting to see if this reversal of fortune will continue into the future. If the trend of fewer young adults leaving the region continues, then the number of senior adults in Southern Illinois should increase in the future as these young adults mature into senior adults, mimicking the national growth trend more closely. However, even if this local trend does continue, the number of young adults staying in Southern Illinois who eventually reach senior adult years will not realize itself in Southern Illinois until the 2020 and 2030 Census counts, when the growth of the young adults from the 1970 and 1980 Census counts reach the senior adult years. Also, the growth of our senior adult population will continue to lag behind the national trend since this region continues to lose a portion of its young adults to other regions of the country.

One troubling observation is the 0-9 age group in Southern Illinois that has shown a consistent decline in their numbers since 1920. Even though the number of young adults of child bearing age since 1960 has stabilized somewhat in this region, the number of young children in the 0-9 age group has declined in every Census count. Since 1960, our region has had a decline of 23.5% in the 0-9 age group. The national trend since 1960 shows an increase of 1.9% in the number of young children in the 0-9 age group, although the state of Illinois has had a decline of 15.2% of its young children in the 0-9 age group since 1960.

Acknowledgements

The Census data for this project was compiled mainly by J. Brown, a student Intern from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), with some assistance from J. Fasel, a volunteer. Several librarians of Morris Library at SIUC assisted with the identification of the appropriate U.S. Census data. Researchers within several departments at SIUC provided clinical observations of the economic conditions in Southern Illinois during the time frames of this study that helped the author formulate the theories considered herein.


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